PM’s address at the valedictory session of the 34th meeting of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology
New Delhi. The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh released Common Entry Ticket for the visitors to the World Heritage Sites and protected monuments/sites at a function in New Delhi today. He addressed the valedictory session of the 34th meeting of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology on this occasion. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:“Someone has described public office as private education at public expense and in my long association in the government of India moving from one Ministry to another, I have benefited enormously and listening to such distinguish discourse on the future of India’s past, I have also benefitted to a great degree and I thank you for the insights that you have provided for the study of the preservation and promotion of India’s past. Let me begin by thanking all of you for attending and participating in the 34th meeting of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology being held almost after two years. I would ensure in the future that the Board meets more regularly and whatever recommendations emanate from this august Body, they are looked into properly and action taken should also be placed before the board at each of its next meeting. Let me say that study of India’s past ,archaeology as a discipline is something which requires joint collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Culture, the Archaeology Survey of India, the State functionaries and the academic bodies like the Universities. For exploration and excavation we need to bring our collective knowledge , wisdom and experience to move forward. I can assure you that this is an area where there is no shortage of funds, there will be no shortage of funds, we should and we can have networks between the Cultural Ministry, the Archaeology Survey of India, State Governments and Universities, I would like a genuine participatory approach to be developed between the Government, Government of States, Archeological Survey of India and Universities system of our country that’s the only way we can carry forward this massive gigantic enterprise of preserving study of India’s past. Let me say that we value your suggestions and as I said I would like to develop a participatory style of function in the Ministry of Culture. I attach great importance to the works of this ministry and that’s why when the new Cabinet was being sworn in, I said that this is the department which I would like to keep with me. And I have in the last seven- eight months worked with Mr. Sircar and I complement him for enthusiasm for his commitment for his knowledge and I am very happy that the Ministry of Culture is being served by such a very distinguished civil servant of our country. I am very happy that the Archaeology Survey of India has circulated the draft national policy on archeological excavation and this document is now with you. This is in accordance with our desire to synergize the expertise available in the government and non-government sectors and to frame and formulate policies on the basis of widest possible consultations. I hope that there can be and there will be an informed debate on this subject before the policy is actually finalized and I greatly value your contribution, your inputs towards this end. The Archaeology Survey of India has served our country exceedingly well. It will complete 150 years of its existence in the year 2011. I believe that we must pool all our wisdom and experience and work to revitalize this great organization to bring it on par with the best of institutions anywhere in the world. I was in Washington, I didn’t have much time to go round. But my daughter who went and saw the library of US Congress for the first time came back and said, “Daddy, well I have got some idea what you should be doing in the Ministry of Culture. The way the Americans preserve their ancient monuments even though it is only a fraction of what we have in this country. So I draw inspiration from that the Archaeology Survey of India has done good work but we can not be satisfied with the status quo. We must build up on our past experience to write a new glorious chapter in the history of this great national enterprise. This I have identified as one of the priority tasks in the Ministry of Culture and I wish to flag a few issues that I think are of importance as we move forward with this important task. One of the substantive issues that need for the discussion is the policy and procedure relating to the notification of monuments of national importance. The act of notifying a monument has many implications. First is the question whether the ASI has the resources to protect and maintain it there are other legal and sensitive legal and administrative issues that arise particularly for monuments in prohibited and regulated zones in urban areas. I have asked Mr. Sircar to examine the issue in detail so that a coherent and practical policy could be put in place. I am happy that the Ministry will do so after hearing your deliberations and the outcome of these deliberations. Though we have wealth of research materials and sources, record keeping and archival management have not been our strong points. I recognize for example that there are often delays in publishing the ASI’s excavation reports. The ASI has a priceless collection of glass negative in its photographic section, that are not in the public domain. I will urge the Ministry of Culture and the ASI to draw a time bound plan for early publication and proper archival management of all such material. The Archaeology Survey of India’s initiatives in republishing materials, the early days of archeology of India should be expanded. All these would be of immense value to the scholars. I also urge Dr. Srivastava that the publication, Ancient India which has been discontinued for many years, now should be revived as a part of our contribution to the study of India’s past and the cultural heritage of which we are generally proud of. One other area where I would like to draw your attention is that there are a number Indian sites on the tentative list of the World Heritage Committee. At the last meeting of advisory board on culture, the point was made that our capacity for research and documentation on such historical sites is quite inadequate. More effort needs to be put in this regard so that we can prepare proper nomination dossiers for these sites for inscription in the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO. There is a growing awareness about this task in several parts of our country. It needs to be systematized in a form that will need the approval of the standard that UNESCO sets for such examination. There are also areas where the distinguished members of the board can give valuable suggestions and feedback. Even though the Board meets frequently, I hope that we can use the wealth of expertise available in this room through more frequent meetings with more selective groups and when I listen to all the learned scholars who spoke I think that this wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience which should be available for this gigantic task of remembering and honouring our past the way we would like to do. I recognize that ASI cannot function in the manner that we expect without a drastic overhaul of its rules and procedures and soon after becoming the Prime Minister I have been trying even though I was not Minister for Culture, that the rules for senior appointments should be changed, there should be greater scope to bring in the professionals. At long last I think the task is in the process of being fulfilled and rules and procedure are being revised. Professionalism and work culture that require that attracts talents and creates a sense of pride and motivation are vital and I agree with one of the scholars who said that the ASI must be given maximum professional freedom. I assure you that will be the direction in which I would like the Ministry to be supportive of the maximum possible functional freedom being given to ASI for its work. I agree that professionalism and work culture attracts talent and creates a sense of pride and motivation are vital if we are to revitalize this great institution that the ASI is. This applies to other institutions working under the Ministry of Culture as well. I often mention to the officials in the Ministry of Culture, the sad state in which the National Archives is. There is no reason why we should be satisfied with the present set up. We need to bring in more professional talent in the management whether for senior appointments or through advisory committees ,we need to put in place the maximum possible wisdom, knowledge, experience available in our country for management of the national archive, the management of the ASI and all institutions which have a bearing on preservation, protection and remembering India’s great ancient past. As an important first step, we have taken a decision to modify the recruitment rules and other terms and conditions of eight organizations under the Ministry of Culture. In line with these rules we are in the process of selecting a professional in the field of archeology for the post of Director General, ASI. I believe that we will need to think seriously about how to build a talent pool of archeologists, curators and other specialists who have relevant domain knowledge but are also experienced in management and administration of museum, archives and institutions like ASI. I would welcome any suggestion that may emanate from this august body to realize this ambition of ours. There are important emerging areas in protection of monuments that require expert professional attention. Monuments cannot live in isolation. A communication strategy that evokes the interests of youth or the corporates and imaginative policies that integrate monuments with the local communities and other civil society activists and meet their needs are two such areas which require greater study and action both by this board as well as the Ministry of Culture. These are some of the thoughts which occurred to me and as a layman I have placed them before you. I have my very best wishes. I attach great importance to government institutions functioning in close collaboration with agencies and authorities of the civil society workers and in this room we have assembled a very distinguished group of scholars whose wisdom, knowledge and experience I sincerely hope will improve the functioning of this great institution, the Archaeology Survey of India is. With these words I once again thank each one of you. I know each one of you have many pre-occupations and much pressure on time, that you have nevertheless come here and spent the whole day analyzing problems and prospects of the archaeological management in our country, I thank you for the core of my heart and as a Minister of Culture I assure you that whatever knowledge and experience emanates from this august Body will find proper expression in the policy guidelines that we may evolve to improve the functioning of the ASI.